Austine Eguavoen has revealed that Odion Ighalo is eager to feature at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations despite his club Al Shabab refusing to release him for the tournament.
The Saudi Arabia club objected to Ighalo’s involvement at the AFCON and reiterated that NFF missed the official deadline to call up the player.
The Riyad club official Majid Al-Marzouki told Al Arabiya’s In the Goal TV program that Ighalo’s letter of invitation did not reach the club within the period specified by FIFA for receiving players’ call-up letters.
But despite the setback Eguavoen, speaking from the Eagles camp in Garoua published on NFF TV, said Ighalo is doing his best to be with the team.
The 1994 AFCON winner also disclosed why it would not be possible to replace the former Manchester United if he eventually does not turn up.
“We spoke, exchange text messages and from his response he is doing everything to come by. I thought of replacing him, I gave a deadline and tried to bring in Nassarawa United striker Silas Nwankwo, a good player no doubt. And also Akinkunmi Amoo but he is not a striker but he can play off strikers. I thought of replacing Ighalo with any of them but what CAF is saying is that it’s only based on injuries, health reasons, that’s the only way he can be replaced so that was what was holding us back.
“But the federation is putting in all effort way out from here, the young man Odion is also doing his best from there hopefully we will get a positive answe. If it wasn’t for the rules that says it has to be on medical ground maybe we would have just told Odion not to go through that because psychologically we know he is with us but there is nothing we can do but to replace him. But on medical ground he is healthy and we don’t pray bad for anybody.”
Aside Ighalo, the duo of Jamilu Collins and Tyronne Ebuehi are the other players yet to join their Eagles teammates.
But Eguavoen disclosed that both players will join their teammates on Friday.
“Hopefully Tyronne Ebuehi and Jamilu Collins will joins us tomorrow. Tyronne is playing tonight (Thursday) and he will be here tomorrow and Jamilu will be here tomorrow evening.
Meanwhile, the Eagles had their first training session in Garoua on Thursday with Eguavoen expressing satisfaction with what he said.
“First training about an hour 15 minutes, couldn’t do everything we wanted to because of time factor. But however we are very impressed, the field also is very good, environment is good, weather is good and the boys responded very well and we are happy.
“Their response to training was very good because the way I operate it’s more of interactive session, no man knows it all but I have my own philosophy, I have my own way of doing things. And what I do is I try to make you understand why I want you to do it that way and we’ve been preaching that from day one and the boys understand me now and they have never showed any sign of grievance.”
Eguavoen added:”They’ve been happy and been responding very well, I spoke to a couple of them in the aircraft yesterday coming here, because there was no time to do that in Abuja. On arrival we went to bed at about 2am so this morning I spoke to a few and this evening I will also speak to others before we have a collective session.
“So far I think they are very pleased, there attitude towards the training session have been awesome, real professionalism they are demonstrating.”
And on fans at the airport tipping the Eagles to win the AFCON after they arrived Cameroon, the 1994 and 1998 World Cup star admits it puts him under pressure.
“It spur us but also put us under a bit of pressure, even if it is Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, Gernot Rohr, you can’t say you are not under pressure. It’s like Manchester City, probably one of the best teams right now, playing the best brand of football. Guardiola is one coach that I adore, I like other coaches as well but his approach is very different but he has not been able to win the Champions League with City. So you cannot say he is not under pressure, he wants to win it. So people are saying yes they expect Nigeria to win the AFCON that puts me under some pressure.
“I will take it and then we will take it game after game. It’s not going to be easy because every team that have come here have come to prove a point and the first game is very crucial to any team that will give you a lot of encouragement going into the tournament proper. So I will say a little bit of pressure but I think I’m more relax now than two weeks or a week ago.”
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